- Restaurants and pubs are reporting huge numbers of cancellations as a result of the Government’s announcement of its Plan B to deal with the Omicron Coronavirus variant. Chef and restaurateur Tom Kerridge revealed earlier this week that 654 diners had cancelled their bookings over the past six days at just one of his restaurants – amounting to more than 100 cancellations a day. Cancellations coupled with staff absences are forcing many restaurants to close early for Christmas, with London restaurants particularly badly hit by the drop in consumer confidence at what is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for hospitality. UKHospitality says it is currently seeing a 25% reduction on expected trade, with industry bosses expecting a further drop of around the same as Christmas draws closer. Calls are growing for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to step in and support struggling firms, with Labour warning that tens of thousands of hospitality businesses face closure if he doesn't.
- Meanwhile, in Scotlandhospitality businesses have been ordered to reintroduce social distancing measures and collect contact tracing information under new curbs aimed at slowing the spread of the Omicron Covid variant. Announced alongside a £100m financial package to help businesses impacted by the new restrictions, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked everyone in Scotland to reduce as far as possible, and to a minimum, the contacts they have with people in other households. While the financial support was welcomed by trade bodies, there are warnings that the damage has already been done and more additional support will be needed from the Westminster Government. Elsewhere, night-time economy businesses in Wales have said they are 'considering their legal options' after it was announced the country's nightclubs will be forced to close again from 27 December.
- Pastry chef Cedric Grolet will open his first patisserie outside of France at The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge. Grolet, who is considered to be one of the world’s best pastry chefs, will open Cedric Grolet at The Berkeley with food and drink available to take away or to consumed within the hotel, in a new 60- cover space. The patisserie will have a pastry theatre and eight seats that will overlook the kitchen and enable guests to see Grolet’s team at work. The chef is known for his culinary ‘trompe-l'œil’ and his famous fruits and flowers patisserie creations will be able to buy at the new café, which will serve ‘le petit déjeuner’ and ‘Goûter Cedric Grolet’ afternoon tea. There will also be a large selection of pastries, viennoisseries and exclusive new creations on the menu.
- Pub group Oakman is looking to more than double its estate to around 70 pubs in the next four and a half years. In a trading update the group, which operates 36 pubs, says it wants to hit this opening target by June 2026. It has already secured planning permission for sites in Watford, Epsom and Ludlow, which are due to open next year, and has acquired a freehold site in Harpenden where it is looking to develop a three-storey pub with a roof terrace. Negotiations are also at an advanced stage for a site in Gerrards Cross and for further locations in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Lancashire, according to the pub group.
- Uber Eats is giving black-owned restaurants across the UK the chance to get financial support to grow their businesses. The Black Business Fund, set up in collaboration with Enterprise Nation and Be Inclusive Hospitality, will see a total of £50,000 distributed to 10 small black-owned businesses that have been adversely impacted by the pandemic. Black-owned businesses with fewer than five locations can now apply to the fund with applications closing on 12 January. As well as funding to help grow their businesses, restaurants will receive special mentoring from Enterprise Nation and Be Inclusive Hospitality. Shortlisted entrants will be asked to share a video describing their own business journey and how they would use a grant to manage the impact of the pandemic and make a positive impact in the community. Recipients will be free to choose how they use the grant.
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